WASHINGTON—Today, President Obama will announce investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire. Home to some of the most diligent and self-reliant Americans, rural communities and our nation’s agriculture industry are vital contributors to employment and exports from the United States. Strong and secure rural communities are essential to creating an economy built to last that rewards hard work and responsibility—not outsourcing, loopholes, and risky financial deals. While the security of the middle class has been threatened by the irresponsible financial collapse and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, rural Americans continue to come together to buckle down and make ends meet. The values that have helped hard-working, responsible families weather the storm continue to move our economy forward. As a result, while there is still work to do, a new report released today details the progress that has been made in the agricultural economy.
“As we continue to fight our way back from the deepest economic crisis in generations and build an economy that lasts, rural America is helping to lead the charge,” said President Obama. “On farms and ranches; in towns and communities across this country, rural Americans know that we are stronger as a people when everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. Those are the values we need to return to, and as long as I’m President, my Administration will continue to give our rural communities the support and investment they need to show us the way.”
Last August at the White House Rural Economic Forum, President Obama announced a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, at no cost to tax payers. Today, President Obama is announcing that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in these businesses through the Small Business Administration’s SBIC program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016. These investments will continue to help finance, grow, expand, and modernize rural small business operations across the country. The details of the locations, amounts and industries in which these dollars have been invested to date can be found HERE.
Additionally, the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are releasing a joint report today, which notes progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and details steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs and growth in rural America. To read the full report, click HERE.
Highlights from the report include:
•Innovation: Innovation in U.S. agriculture has kept America’s farms among the most productive in the world. U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion in 2011. Adjusting for general inflation, real farm income in 2011 recorded its 3rd highest level in the last 50 years.
•Exports: While many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus, with record levels of farm exports at $137.4 billion for fiscal year 2011. Yet, it is clear that still more can and should be done to boost agriculture exports. The President’s National Export Initiative has opened new markets for U.S. agricultural products and services and contributed to a historic level of agricultural exports. Once fully implemented, free trade agreements passed under this Administration with Korea, Panama, and Colombia are projected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by $2.3 billion per year.
•Clean Energy: The Administration has pursued polices that promote domestic energy alternatives like biofuels, bioenergy, and wind power to provide new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest managers. Pursuit of an all-of-the-above clean energy and energy efficiency strategy saved Americans a projected 6.5 billion kWh – enough energy to power over 590,000 homes for a year – and nearly doubled the amount of installed wind energy generation in the U.S. over the past three years from about 25,000 MW in 2008 to 47,000 MW in 2011.
•New Industries: The Administration has supported new industry diversification within the agricultural economy. The retail value of the organic industry grew to $31.4 billion in 2011, up from $21.1 billion in 2008. The number of operations certified organic grew by 1,109 – or more than 6% – between 2009 and 2011.
•Community Investment: The rural economy has been strengthened by investments in over 6,250 new community facilities. Additionally, over the last three years, 12,000 USDA grants and loans have been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses.